“Driven Underground” Movie Review

By Ruth on October 9, 2015 in movie, review, television
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Single mother Sarah Palmer hides her family in Oregon when her daughter Christy becomes a key witness in a murder against the mob.

Before I begin my review, this movie truly has special meaning for me. For those who regularly read my reviews, you will be well aware of my friendship with one of the actors in this movie–Sebastian Spence. It took this movie nearly a year to make it to the Lifetime Movie Network.  Although it may sound trivial, the fact that I knew Sebastian and was friends with him during the making of this film (the first of many I’m sure), that makes this movie extra special. Honestly, it seemed like this movie would never make its way to my television screen (kind of like his guest spot on The Returned).

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This movie boasts a cast, many of whom I have seen elsewhere in other Hallmark films/shows or Lifetime movies. For me, it was a real treat to see some of my absolute favorites cast in one film together. And what an awe-inspiring film this is. My entire family watched it (my 12-year-old daughter included), and we unequivocally believe it is one of the finest Lifetime films we have seen in a while. Yes, it follows the typical script of a single mother, bad guys chasing her, and electrifying, dangerous, and downright chilling scenes. However, there is something missing that I am quite pleased about. There are no bedroom scenes! While there is some mild profanity, no one loses themselves in wild passion, a usual mainstay of Lifetime films. Instead, the audience is focused on the story at hand, and what a story it is.du cast

If I had one criticism, it would be that the audience is privy to knowledge that would have kept things more suspenseful for us. Concealment of the “bad guys” and who they really are could have been done in a more expert fashion, but I had discovered that is another hallmark of Lifetime films. Reveal early in the film who the bad guy is, but toss in some plot twists and gunfights (or knives or axes) to keep things interesting. Safe to say, if that is my only criticism, I’d say this is a cracker jack of a film, and I am definitely ready to jump right into the review that I will attempt to keep as spoiler-free as possible.

Kristy Swanson as Sarah Palmer & Emily Tennant as Christy Palmer

Kristy Swanson as Sarah Palmer & Emily Tennant as Christy Palmer

Interestingly enough, it is Hallmark who introduced me to both of these ladies who play the mother/daughter duo who drive the story line to its dramatic conclusion.  And Kristy and Emily make the perfect team.  I always delight in seeing Kristy in anything as she plays her parts so effortlessly and with such conviction. However, Emily has been one who has taken some time to grow on me. I first saw her on Cedar Cove, and as splendid as she is, I didn’t really care for the part into which she was cast. I really wanted to like her, and I am so grateful that this part is one where she can certainly shine, and that is exactly what she does. Together, these two are sweet, strong, and completely believable. I rooted for both of them throughout the film.

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In this role, Emily is able to demonstrate her immense range of acting that I have not witnessed previously.  I never doubted her in the role, and her interactions with the characters were genuine and charming. In addition to this, there is a pristine vulnerability about her that makes the viewer connect with her fears and her joys.

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It is this scene where I’m sure my heart was racing as fast as her character’s. The scene is filled with sheer terror, and I found her acting so foolproof that I considered the fact that this is something that could conceivably happen to anyone–witnessing a horrific murder almost by chance.

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As these two face the reality of their imminent danger, both Kristy and Emily inject just the right amount of emotion into their characters  to make this all seem real without being banal or overdone.  I never sensed any melodrama from either of them.  Moreover, I empathized with Kristy’s character numerous times as I am a single mother myself, and this would be decidedly a mother’s worst nightmare. It’s one thing to have your life threatened, but the stakes are raised when it affects your child, no matter her age.

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As they both shroud themselves in a safe area away from the city and out in the middle of nowhere, I was jubilant to see Emily’s character coming out of her shell and sincerely connecting with the horses and the country. I would venture to say that Emily herself enjoys nature and horses, and she brought that overwhelming love to her character thus making it appear even more authentic.

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Both of these actresses have some dazzling scenes with Sebastian Spence, but I will save those comments until I discuss his performance as they are integral to that part of the review.

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Lucia Walters as Detective West

Let’s talk about Lucia Walters, shall we? The moment I saw her as Detective West in this film, I knew I had seen her somewhere, but I couldn’t recall where. Then it hit me–Ties That Bind on UP. Now, I probably have seen her elsewhere, but that is where I have most recently seen her (she also is an upcoming Sebastian Spence film which really intrigues me, too). As a police detective trying to protect the Palmer family against all odds, she is ideal. Since she also plays a police detective in Ties That Bind it makes sense to see her portraying a police detective yet again while bringing uncanny believability to the role.  There is no doubt that her character is suspicious of the “bad apple” in the force almost from the beginning, but her journey to discover and prove her conjectures is portrayed with the kind of credibility that I would always expect from an actor of Lucia’s caliber. Well-executed indeed.

Frank Cassini as Jimmy

Frank Cassini as Jimmy

Sachin Sahel as Iggy

Sachin Sahel as Iggy

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Scott Patey as Mr. Gabowski

If you watch the film with an observant eye like I do, you may recognize some “honorable mention” performances from these actors. I know I have seen some on various networks and shows here and there, and all three of these fine actors do an upstanding job playing their parts, no matter how big or small their role is.  So I salute Frank (My Mother’s Future Husband), Sachin (I think I have only seen him in this film, but he played his role extremely well), and Scott (I know I’ve seen him in small roles in various films, so check him out).

Rachel Hayward as Molly

Rachel Hayward as Molly

Also a well-known face (I remember her mainly from My Mother’s Future Husband, however), Rachel Hayward plays the very sweet and lovely Molly. She is Sarah’s best friend, and she is there when the unthinkable happens. Again, Rachel is one who just fits this part like a glove, and it is such a delectation to see her included in this film. Her part may be small, but it is important, memorable, and ferocious. After all, anyone who can stand up to a bad cop gets high marks in my book.

Lochlyn Monroe as Detective Boyce

Lochlyn Monroe as Detective Boyce

As a definitive veteran of a wide array of films, it was nice to see Lochlyn playing a role that offered him the opportunity to give one of his best performances, at least, in my opinion. His vast resume seems to span many years and genres, and I am not exactly sure how many works I have seen him in previously, but this is a memorable role indeed. He is so correctly cast because in various ways, he is a chameleon. Thus, if his credibility is questioned, he has succeeded in portraying his part successfully.

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When placed in scenes with Lucia’s character and Kristy’s character, he appears authoritative and in control. At first, neither one seem to have cause to mistrust him in the least. In truth, his character is devious but weak in the face of true brawn, and Lochlyn is the model actor to play this role convincingly.  When in scenes with Rick’s character, he seems to have no backbone, but when faced with those he considers impotent, he appears to have true conviction. Money can cause a man to be less than he should be, and that is true in Detective Boyce’s case.  I do believe Lochlyn is able to succeed in representing this charlatan character rather well.

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Rick Ravanello as Karl Harvey

Now let’s talk about actor Rick Ravanello. I know I have seen him in other things before this–several, as a matter of fact. But it was this movie that caused me to become a fan. There is no doubt that Rick is a powerhouse actor, remarkably commanding in every scene, and it seems that all too often, he plays the “bad guy.” And from his first scene, that’s exactly what he is. Although rather cliched, I think the phrase “No one does bad as good as him” is a perfect fit for Rick.

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In this role of Karl, he is “bad to the bone”–as there are no redeeming qualities at all in his character. And while as a viewer you cheer for his character to get knocked off quickly, you can’t help but desire a plethora of “Karl” scenes because Rick plays him so masterfully.

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The viewer seriously feels the alarm of Emily’s character as Karl pursues her with a vengeance after seeing him carry out a hit. I wanted to put my faith in the legal system and the police, but I have seen enough Lifetime Movies to know that we were in for an abundance of malice and retaliation from the bad guy. Oh but since he’s played by Rick, that’s okay.

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This scene absolutely frightened me. Seeing Kristy and Emily bring terror to their characters was marvelous, but Rick was so phenomenal. I honestly don’t know how he can be so believable as a bad guy when he is so nice to all his fans. Yes, he is another of those actors who gives nothing but kindness to his fans, and he really does go out of his way to acknowledge as many as he can. Actors that do that do tend to engender much devotion from me.  And when it just so happens that their acting is brilliant, it only makes it easier for me to promote their works.

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That look alone could probably cause nightmares for the next several weeks, but thankfully Rick is able to give a sense of charm to his bad guy persona as well. Again, I don’t know how he does it, but he certainly has the knack for it.

Sebastian Spence as Tom Wilcox

Sebastian Spence as Tom Wilcox

Now, for me, this was the entire reason I anticipated the film and watched it so voraciously. The other actors were merely a bonus (and a delightful one, I might add). As I stated in the beginning, the excitement surrounding this film was that Sebastian was in it. And interestingly enough, he plays yet another cowboy. Although the character himself may not have been written with the care and charm of Cliff Harting on Cedar Cove (Tom is a bit more rugged than Cliff after all), because Sebastian is the actor chosen to breathe life into Tom, don’t worry. Tom is as enchanting, captivating, and gracious as one could want. He is also a gentleman that never pushes too hard, but genuinely cares about these two ladies who are “hiding out” next door.

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Sebastian is of a rare breed of actors who is able to bring credibility to any role he is given. While some actors might bring a little bit of woodenness and hokeyness to this role, Sebastian’s performance always rings true. He is one who is the consummate professional who is always thorough in whatever role he is portraying. It would behoove the viewer to pay attention to every expression, gesture, and tone inflection because Sebastian never throws away any detail when it comes to acting. He completely immerses himself in every role to a depth that most actors would only dream about. And he makes it look so easy!

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From the moment Tom and the Palmers meet, there is an immediate connection. Christy is drawn to the horses, and Sarah is thoroughly charmed by the way he reaches out to them even thought they are complete strangers. Tom is able to sense that there is trouble these two are fleeing, and without saying a word, he instantly becomes their protector and defender.  To witness the chemistry Emily and Sebastian had on-screen (very much like a father and daughter) was sheer delight for me as they were never on-screen together during Cedar Cove. There was something truly special that clicked between these two actors, and it made me fall in love with Emily as an actress while reminding me exactly why Sebastian is my favorite actor (not to mention my dearest friend).

SSDrivenUnderground2Sebastian has a unique knack with every actor with whom he works. While I have never met this man, I am utterly impressed with the effortless chemistry he is able to develop with every actor and actress on-screen. While he invariably relates to each one individually and uniquely as befits their personality, he evermore exudes warmth, gentleness, and authenticity with whomever he shares the screen. Not only that, his talent and ability could easily steal the limelight from any actor, but he never does that. Whenever he is in front of the camera, his performance seeks to bring out the best in the other people involved in the scene.du sebastian 3Some may think that these words I write come from my bias as his friend. Well, I cannot deny that might be true, but I also have evidence to support my claim. For me, reputation is paramount. While I know that one cannot gratify everyone, I do believe that in a business where image is everything and there are myriads of horror stories about prima donnas (both male and female), I try to do my homework when it comes to actors I consider supporting. In Sebastian’s case, I don’t even have to go looking for people who tell me that he is not only a great actor, but he is a wonderful human being. I hear it over and over again whenever I mention his name, and it is clear that these people are being genuine and not saying those words out of compulsion.  While I’m sure there are those who might have negative things to say about him (there will always be those in this world), the fact that his reputation in this business is impeachable only raises this man in my estimation.

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Lest anyone think that Sebastian plays a wimpy cowboy, let me set the record straight.  Let’s examine one of my favorite scenes in the entire movie–when Karl and Tom face-off.  In this scene, we have two unbelievably talented men, and both bring everything they have to their respective characters. While Rick’s character may underestimate the simplicity that Sebastian’s character emits, Sebastian also gives quiet intensity to his character.

SSDrivenUnderground3While Rick could easily dominate this scene, Sebastian is up to the task at hand. Karl’s flamboyance meets Tom’s quiet fortitude and…

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Both Sebastian and Rick play exceptionally off each other, and some viewers may be hard-pressed to decide who should win. But then we are reminded that Karl is the bad guy, and we can only hope that good will triumph over evil.

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Usually, Lifetime films have a compulsory bedroom scene, but not so in this film (as I mentioned earlier). Although the romance happens quickly, can you deny the chemistry these two have in this scene?

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While I would have reveled in more build-up to this scene, no doubt both Sarah and Tom are meant for each other. And while a bit awkward due to the quick way these two become lovers, the kiss is still full of sweetness and promise. To be honest, the inelegance of the kiss only makes the scene more appealing and romantic. And because Sebastian gives Tom that tranquil fortitude and fervent nature (that I tend to think Sebastian himself possesses as well), I never doubt the authenticity of this impeccable scene. And thankfully, daughter is pleased with this development as well!

In conclusion, although this film is fairly typical in the Lifetime Movie genre, because of the vigor of the acting and the plausibility they bring to their characters, this is a movie that is not to be missed. I was thoroughly engrossed in this film from the jarring beginning to the most dulcet of endings, and I cannot recommend this film enough.

For more information:

http://www.mylifetime.com/movies/driven-underground

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4875364/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth
43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA Entertainment Writer Available For Interviews and Reviews Substitute Teacher

5 Comments

  1. Janel October 10, 2015 Reply

    Thanks for this review, I will definitely watch this movie when I can 🙂

  2. Fee Roberts October 10, 2015 Reply

    I’ve never heard of this movie. It sounds really good though.

  3. KATHARINE COOKMAN October 18, 2015 Reply

    THIS IS MY KIND OF MOVIE A GOOD THRILLER WONDERFUL 💯💯

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